Eric Adams vows to immediately reverse de Blasio ban on solitary confinement

By: 
Julia Marsh, Tina Moore, Craig McCarthy and Bruce Golding

Mayor-elect Eric Adams introduced the city’s new jail boss on Thursday — and warned the inmates on Rikers Island to start behaving because he plans to immediately reverse outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policy against solitary confinement.

“The mayor announced, Dec. 31 he’s going to empty out punitive segregation,” Adams said.

“They better enjoy that one-day reprieve because Jan. 1, they’re going back into punitive segregation if they commit a violent act.”

Adams’ declaration at a news conference in Brooklyn prompted applause from city Correction Captains’ Association president Patrick Ferraiuolo.

Adams, a former NYPD captain, also challenged opponents of solitary confinement to spend just one day working as a correction officer.

“We have record-setting inmate-on-inmate assaults. We have staff being assaulted on the island,” Adams said.

“There are violent people … To say nothing is going to happen to them is just the wrong message.”

Adams called Rikers “a national embarrassment” that city officials “have ignored” before vowing to immediately reverse that once he’s sworn in on Jan. 1.

“We are not playing and we are not going to cover up this dysfunctional system,” he said.

“That is unacceptable.”

De Blasio is an outspoken critic of isolating inmates deemed too dangerous to be left among the general population and in March announced that the city would “ban solitary confinement altogether.”

“We’re staying our course and ending it Dec. 31,” mayoral spokesperson Laura Feyer said Thursday.

 

In a subsequent, prepared statement, de Blasio said: “The Mayor-elect and I both want the same thing –- a secure environment for our staff to work in and a safe setting for our inmates.”

“As part of our plan to end the current form of punitive segregation we created special units which keep inmates who commit violent acts separate from the general population,” he added.

“[Outgoing Correction Commissioner Vincent] Schiraldi is giving a tour to the incoming commissioner, and we will continue to be in constant communication about a path forward that aligns with our shared values.”

Adams, the outgoing Brooklyn borough president, made his remarks while publicly introducing the city’s next correction commissioner, Louis Molina, a former Westchester County correction official who’s now the commissioner of public safety in Las Vegas.

Molina will be taking over the city’s troubled jail system amid surging violence, staff shortages and a rash of inmate deaths that reached 16 on Tuesday when a robbery defendant apparently overdosed on illegal drugs.

Molina, who will be the highest-ranking Hispanic in city government, said he was “humbled to serve as the next commissioner of the Department of Correction, overseeing New York City’s Boldest.”

“Like the mayor-elect, I, too, am a New York City kid,” the Bronx native said.

“I always wanted to make a difference in my community. That’s why I chose public service as my calling.”

Benny Boscio, president of the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, said the union looked “forward to working with him to hit the ground running on day one” and “hopeful that incoming Commissioner Louis Molina shares those same goals.”

“Now more than ever, we desperately need a proven law enforcement leader who understands the gravity of the crisis we’re in and is willing to work in collaboration with us to restore safety, security and sanity to our jails,” Boscio said.

The Legal Aid Society called on Adams to immediately “retract” his plan, saying it “throws away years of progress undoing the physical and mental harms caused by solitary confinement, and it reveals the new Administration’s intent to reinstate regressive and violent policies over modern and more effective practices.”

“This is a direct attack on the rule of law, as the recently enacted Board of Correction rules clearly do not give the Administration this latitude,” the group added.

The sister of Layleen Polanco — whose family last year struck a $5.9 million deal with the city over her 2019 death in solitary confinement on Rikers Island — also called Adams’ remarks “disgusting.”

“If you want to continue to use solitary confinement, it means you are OK with people dying and people being tortured,” Melanie Brown said in a prepared statement.